BEST OF 2016: ROMANTIC GETAWAYS by Vivian Vassos

2016-02-09

It’s that time of year again for a romantic getaway – Valentine’s Day – but really, is it? In our opinion, it’s always a good time to travel, to kindle a little romance and get the fires of passion burning.

The best part? Destinations and hotels are keen to share the love! Everything from private journeys and experiences – built for two – to a night out cuddling in front of a roaring fireplace are on our radar this month, and every month.

Click through to see some of our favourite places to get your romantic groove on.

 

The Staycation: Victoria

In Canada, it seems that Victoria is where the heart is. Amazon.ca, in its seventh annual ranking of the Top 20 most romantic cities in Canada through sales data, found that the BC island capital city took top spot. According to the survey, Victoria’s citizens purchase the most romance novels and relationship books, romantic comedy DVDs, jewelry, romantic CDs and sexual wellness products. The second most romantic city, North Vancouver, placed second in the books and music categories, while Waterloo, Ont., held on to its previous third-place ranking in the books, music and jewelry categories. www.tourismvictoria.com; www.amazon.ca

 

The Zen Getaway: Kyoto

The romantic vision that is Kyoto almost defies even the most masterly writer’s description or weaving of words. It is simply breathtaking. The people. The temples. The gardens. The historic quarters. The Geishas. Yes, there are still Geishas. Even the neon of the here and now has a delicate beauty, garish in a way that ignites the senses as eye candy rather than screaming signage. Being immersed in such beauty is no mean feat, except here, in Japan, where everything is packaged to please the eye. A tree is trimmed into a sensual shape, a bow is tied just so atop a box of sweets, a lip is lined in Japanese red to punctuate a pale face. We love it. We are almost lost in it, and ready to abandon ourselves to it. This is a place that is a must on every traveller’s milestone and bucket list. And we did mention the Temples? Above, this photo of the Golden Temple was taken on a phone’s camera. At sunset. No filter. Truth. Domo arigato, Kyoto.www.Ilovejapan.ca

 

The City: Prague

Like Paris, Prague has a bridge. Not just any bridge, mind you. You’d pretty much be able to say that about almost any European city where a river runs through it. This bridge is different. A bridge of love, d’amour. It’s laced with locks, their steely arched arms gripping the links of the fencing and railing like a warm embrace, an embrace symbolizing commitment, a need to hold on, of never letting go. Yes, this is Prague, a city that has been compared to Paris in many other ways. Architecture, cultivated cuisine, a beer-brewing history that’s like so much wine poured in the City of Light.

Isn’t it romantic? But, unlike Paris, the bridge of love here is not so easy to find. We are fortunate enough to have a guide, a local Prague-ite who knew exactly where it is. And that is the beauty of travel, but travel done in a way that makes sense in our time-crunched world. Get an expert to help you in the discovery, leave the details like luggage, transportation and even language translation to an expert. www.prague.eu

Our guide came way of Insight Vacations.www.insightvacations.com/ca

 

The Resort: One&Only Hayman Island, Australia

It’s Sunday in the Whitsundays. “Sun” seems to be the common denominator, the operative word here. The Whitsundays, are a tiny gaggle of islands, fuzzy pale green dots anchored in the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland, in the north east of Australia, a snorkel’s swim away from the Great Barrier Reef. It’s sunny on Hayman Island, too, the most northerly of the Whitsundays, where the population is made up of R and R seekers and those that do their best to service that need.

It is also the spot of one of the newest One & Only resorts, the hotel group that counts Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, the Palmilla in Los Cabos to be exact, as well as the Ocean Club in the Bahamas (Daniel Craig famously stayed the night at the resort there in his debut star turn as 007). Add locations in The Maldives, Cape Town, two in Dubai, and Mauritius, and you start to get the picture. Exclusive, private, lush, tropical, reclusive, all words that evoke a sense of getaway, of peace, of romance.

But isn’t that the point? When we seek the solace of a holiday, there are times in our lives that go beyond the practical, a time to infuse a little romantic getaway time, when a milestone should be celebrated, or perhaps even more critical: while the world keeps spinning round, sometimes it’s just time to get off, stop, breathe. Go far, spend time. Do nothing. And everything. The sky’s the limit.www.oneandonlyresorts.com/one-and-only-hayman-island-australia

 

The Fireplace: in New York City

If your idea of a little romance is a cuddle with your lover by a roaring fire, then we’ve got your answer. The Royalton New York, a Morgans Hotel Group property, introduces the first-ever artisanal fireplace program: Royalton Fireplace, a full sensory immersion. Located in midtown Manhattan, the boutique Royalton New York – a boutique property that also features 55 wood-burning fireplaces in its guest rooms, the most of any NYC hotel – has introduced The Fireplace Sachet, developed in partnership with Brooklyn-based Wood Sommelier Ted Whitehead (aka The Woodman). Five wood types allow guests to customize their in-room fires/scents. A menu of small plates and craft cocktails are paired to complement each scent. The Fireplace concierge will give you the choice of Oak, Pecan, Maple, Hickory, Apple or “Burn Baby Burn” Cherry wood. Romantic, indeed. https://www.morganshotelgroup.com/special/royalton-fireplace

 

The Island Retreat: in the Bahamas

Beat the winter blues with a bit of all-inclusive fun, in the Bahamas. It’s close enough for a long, romantic weekend, and at Meliá Nassau Beach All-inclusive, sun-seekers will find a beachside resort undergoing a $19 million makeover. “It is all about the guest at Melia Nassau Beach All-Inclusive,” says General Manager Pablo Cogolludo. “We have made significant improvements to the property, further demonstrating our commitment to providing guests with the added value they seek at an all-inclusive. We strive to exceed guests’ expectations, hopefully resulting in them extending their stay at our resort.”

http://www.melia.com/en/hotels/bahamas/nassau/melia-nassau-beach/index.html

 

The Award-Winning Hideaway: in Vienna

The Hotel Altstadt Vienna is celebrating more than Valentine’s in 2016. It’s the property’s 25th birthday, and with it, comes the 2016 Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards as the Best Hotel in Austria, and a laundry list of upgrades to the historic building. From a completely revamped reception area, with brass touches and a living green wall, to redone rooms that are inspired by the Vienna-Orient connection (Baroque and Modernist meets Contemporary Orient). Public and private spaces are a gallery of who’s who in the art world, from Warhol to Leibowitz to Prachensky. The hotel’s location is also a winner, within walking distance of the Museum Quarter and Marie Theresa Square. And, with the next Life Ball set for May 2017, the city and the hotel are a magnet for the well-heeled LGBT crowd. Believe it or not, when we visited in May 2015, Vienna became even more beautiful than usual. Book now for the art and the artful rooms; and return for 2017. http://www.altstadt.at/en/

 

The Crown Jewel: Your own Private London… or Texas!

Tully Luxury Travel, a Canadian-based luxe travel agency, has a division that owner Mary Jean Tully has coined the Private Travel Designers. It’s bespoke travel to the max: “This option allows travellers to create the most extraordinary journeys through Tully’s relationships with the very best airlines, hotels, resorts, car services, and tour providers.” For example, Valentine’s Day at the Bulgari Hotel allows you to indulge in an expertly designed seven-plate menu and explore various happenings around London. In addition to fine dining, a breathtaking Cirque Du Soleil performance or evening perusing London’s Orchid Festival are great ways to create a memorable getaway.

And, if London is too far, why not Texas? At the Houston Four Seasons Houston, there’s a special package designed exclusively for couples. It includes luxurious accommodations on Saturday, February 13, a romantic three-course wine pairing dinner at Quattro restaurant, complimentary parking, and the perfect amenity to kick it all off: a bottle of chilled Prosecco accompanied by decadent chocolate-covered strawberries. https://tullyluxurytravel.com/

But don’t limit the romance to February 14th. There’s a whole wide world out there waiting to be courted, 24/7.

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